EROS

THE MYTH OF ANCIENT GREEK SEXUALITY

A potentially interesting study of ancient Greek sexuality sinks in the rough seas of antifeminist diatribe. At first Thornton (Classics/Calif. State Univ., Fresno) is merely pedantic, offering a welter of examples to support his point that the Greeks believed eros, or sexual desire, was a powerful, dangerous force of nature. He becomes almost interesting in noting that our sentimental ``dead metaphors'' of love as fire, disease, and insanity originated in vivid Greek images (and fears) of the destructive power of eros. However, once Thornton starts trying to show that Greek hatred of women was an expression of a legitimate fear of eros, he reveals himself to be less an objective scholar than an apologist for Greek misogyny. He snipes at the ``cheap moral superiority'' of ``our smug twentieth century'' in refusing to recognize that ``the power of women was the power of eros.'' His arguments would be offensive were they not so silly: In proposing Marilyn Monroe as the image of the ``sexually powerful woman'' in opposition to the models in Victoria's Secret catalogs with their ``boyish hips,'' he seems to be elevating a personal preference into an intellectual analysis of sexual imagery in the late 20th century. After similarly confused explorations of Greek marriage, homosexuality, and philosophy, Thornton concludes that the Greeks were wiser than we in distrusting eros and trying to control it through such rational institutions as patriarchy. With a breathtaking lack of supporting material, he asserts that our deviation from their ideas about sex is responsible for contemporary ``illegitimacy . . . crime, random violence, poverty, and social barbarism.'' This book loses sight of its valid points in a fumbling attempt to imitate the contrarian Camille Paglia (whom Thornton cites as a ``model''). And when he fingers eros as the true culprit in Susan Smith's drowning of her two children, he leaves the reader wondering whether he, and his Greeks, are incapable of attributing to women other passions (e.g., maternal) than sexual ones.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8133-3225-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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